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  • Pat Libby

Cultivating a culture of caring: For nonprofits, it’s unwise not to be kind.

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

A few weeks ago I had an unnerving experience that was made much worse by how it was handled by the staff of a well-respected nonprofit.

After all, it’s not every day that you go to the theater and leave covered in blood.

Sure, it was fake blood. But it was in my hair, dripping down my face and splattered on my clothes.

I was in shock.

Clearly, this bit of audience participation was not part of the plan. The play was plenty dramatic by itself and this was not a Halloween-related production.

To say that it ruined my night is an understatement.

Not only did I miss the pleasure of an evening out after the show (it’s pretty gross to sit in a restaurant when you’re covered in blood); I was instead forced to stop at a drug store to buy I product I didn’t own (that would take the stains out) and do laundry (my husband’s clothes were bloody as well).

But the worse part about the whole shebang was how the staff responded to incident.

By telling my stunned blood splattered self that Spray & Wash would do the trick and then walking away. There was no apology. No indication of concern. No attempt to get my name or contact information as a way of following up with me.

Now this is no start-up organization. It is a well-established well respected theater with a broad base of support that has worked hard to become what it is today.

But somewhere along the way, its leaders may have forgotten an important lesson: always treat people with caring and kindness.

So how does an organization establish a culture of caring? By having its leaders consistently:

  1. Convey a sense of caring – that each employee matters as a person (this will translate to how employees treat clients, patrons, donors and other constituents).

  2. Listen to the concerns of staff and acknowledge those concerns with words and actions.

  3. Reward behavior that is thoughtful and caring.

  4. Ensure that the culture of caring is carried out throughout the organization – that it is essential to how business gets done.

That last point is critical. The staff person who dismissed my concern seemed to do so because she was making a bee line over to a major donor (or so I assume because that person was clearly more important than me and my situation).

That type of behavior reflects badly on the theater as a whole.

It conveys that some patrons are more important than others. How foolish is that? Why damage a relationship with anyone?

As to how the situation resolved itself. The stains thankfully came out. The theater called back in response to my complaint, apologized for the bloodbath and for the behavior of the staff person, and offered to email us coupons for free tickets to another show.

That all sounds great except, they never followed up with the free tickets!

The moral of the story is this: Demonstrating a caring culture will enhance your reputation as an organization. After all, you can’t get blood from a stone.

Need help making changes to your organization's culture? Contact me at 619-282-8875 for assistance.

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